Goth club Toronto

The top 5 Toronto goth haunts we miss

Toronto's goth haunts may be few and far between nowadays, but once upon a time, these special places weren't just relegated to the shadows. The height of goth culture in the nineties produced a litany of clubs, bars and boutiques throughout the downtown core where self-professed freaks loved to slink away and rub vinyl-covered elbows with like-minded outcasts. Unlike some other cities, Toronto welcomed the subversive counterculture in the mainstream, and some of our most popular hangouts at the time reflected that.

Some of the classic goth watering holes, such as The Rivoli, are definitely still thriving, though they no longer cater to the same alternative crowds that they used to. Places like the Velvet Underground and Nocturne have managed to survive the yuppification of Queen West, but otherwise, goth is a bit of a ghost on the streets of Toronto.

Here are the five defunct Toronto goth haunts we miss the most.

Silver Crown Tavern
One of the earliest Toronto nightclubs to indulge in the dark side, The Silver Crown was the place to be for the first true children of the night. No goth band in the 80s could get Batcave cred without paying a visit, or at least having their record spun here. Notable DJs like Ivan Palmer got their start at the club manning the legendary late-night dance parties.

Siren/Hell's Belles
The first fashion store of its kind in Toronto, Siren sowed the seeds for goth's residency on Queen West. Owners Groovella and Morpheus Blak opened the shop with handfuls of wares direct from the UK's gothic epicentre, and soon everyone from local street kids to members of Nine Inch Nails were eagerly perusing their racks for coveted Victorian frocks and spiked collars. Longtime staffer Sarah Khokar took over and renamed it Hell's Belles in 2005, keeping the vibe; I definitely remember scanning their rainbow of Manic Panic more than once.

Sanctuary Vampire Sex Bar
Not long after Siren began draping Toronto's undead, Sanctuary moved out of its basement digs and set up down the street. Laden with black paint, ghoulish decor and DJs well-versed in Bauhaus, the bar finally provided goths a cool hangout with weekend events and even an all-ages hub, Catacombs. The "Vampire Sex Bar" wasn't nearly as salacious as it sounds, but that didn't seem to placate the building's owner, who kicked Sanctuary out in favour of a much less sinful Starbucks.

Savage Garden
Aside from Sanctuary, the goth scene was mostly lurking in dingy basements when Paul Samuels (aka Paul Savage) moved to Toronto in the mid-nineties. With Savage Garden, he sought to elevate goth's standing in a sleek, fashionable nightclub. A premium sound system and string of top DJs specializing in industrial and alternative drew the masses for decadent dances. Though Savage Garden is gone, its spirit haunts Nocturne, the club that took over the space in 2011.

A bar that seems to fly under the radar of nostalgic goth convos, Ilyich's occupied the small space behind Future Bakery that's now Labyrinth Lounge. An unabashed neo-communist theme bled through the decor - Soviet newspapers on the walls, barbed-wire ceilings, and a giant, glowing Lenin bust on display. The radical imagery and blaring industrial music attracted many a goth throughout the 90s - cheap drinks didn't hurt, either.

Hey, this is the information age, and even the most dedicated vampires hang out online. A handful of hyperlocal goth sites came to life at the dawn of the millenium, but was one of the most thorough, offering event and store listings, photos, advice columns, profiles on goth's local elite, and a thriving forum where one could discuss The Birthday Massacre's last show or where to find the best deal on corsets.

What goth haunts do you miss? There's a lot more out there. Add your suggestions for ones we didn't mention in the comments below.

See also

The top 10 Toronto goth bands of all time
The goth scene in Toronto

Photo: Mortiis release party (seriously) at Savage Garden via

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